When we’re trying to find the best new bars and restaurants in NYC, we typically look for several things. Great food, for example, or an atmosphere that makes us want to stay until someone kicks us out. And we put all the qualifying places on our Hit List and Bar Hit List. But when it gets warm outside, another factor comes into play: outdoor space. Here are all the best new bars and restaurants where you can eat or drink outside. Memorize this list and check back over the course of the summer to see where else you should be taking full advantage of the climate.
the Outdoor spots
Much like an above-ground pool or the music of Harry Belafonte, the South Street Seaport is best enjoyed during summer. So the next time you find yourself below Canal Street, go check out Bar Wayo. It’s a new spot from the Momofuku people at Pier 17, and, as the name suggests, it’s more of a bar than a restaurant - though you could eat their Hamburg Dip sandwich and call it dinner. The cocktails are great (especially the one that comes in a fish mug), but keep an eye out for the drink special that comes in a hollowed-out watermelon. It tastes like equal parts sake and watermelon juice, and it’ll make you want to purchase a watermelon farm, a sake distillery, or both. Drink a few of these beverages at a table on the outdoor patio, or just sit at the U-shaped bar inside and enjoy a nice view of all the boats and tourists in the Seaport.
The Turk’s Inn looks like somewhere you’d go for your 70th birthday in the year 1961. It’s modeled after an old supper club from Wisconsin, and it’s decorated with stuffed birds, golden tassels, paisley furniture, and one large portrait of a cat (among many other things). There’s also a separate bar area on the roof, and it’s a great spot for a casual outdoor drink in Bushwick. It’s only two-stories high, so don’t expect great views - but just think of it as your own private little patio. If you get hungry after a few drinks, head downstairs for some lamb kebabs and fried halloumi.
Another rooftop bar in Bushwick, The Ledge is also about two stories high on the back of a building, and it’s owned by the same people behind Gemelli (next door). It’s a long, narrow patio covered in tables, and if you need to be inside for a minute, there’s also a little indoor area with an extremely pink color scheme that might have been inspired by Pepto Bismol. Start your night here the next time you want to feel a breeze and enjoy a good cocktail in a semi-hidden outdoor bar that not a lot of people seem to know about.
If a place has quality wine, we’ll probably enjoy ourselves there. And if it has great food as well, there’s a very good chance we’ll gravitate there like a certain cartoon bear to a pot of honey. Lalou has both of these things, and it also has a very nice backyard with about ten tables where you can have a snack and a drink. This wine bar is from the same people behind Fausto, and it has a small menu with things like pasta, roast chicken, and hanger steak with chopped soppressata. The steak is especially good, and we also recommend the zucchini escabeche for something light and refreshing. This place is perfect for an ambitious first date, and it’s also great for when all you need in life is a glass of wine, a plate of fried olives, and the opportunity to make passive-aggressive small talk with a friend.
Being outdoors in the summertime is usually pleasant and rewarding, but there will be certain days when the outside world feels like the engine room of a steam-powered ocean liner. When that happens, go to Montesacro. It’s an Italian restaurant in Williamsburg with a big greenhouse-like space that’s perfect for when you want to feel like you’re outside, without actually being outside. The food here is Roman-inspired, and they specialize in a type of oval-shaped flatbread called pinsa. You’re probably thinking that sounds just like a pizza - and, yes, it’s very similar. As a reward for noticing the similarities, get yourself a pinsa with sausage, broccoli rabe, and stracciatella (and add an order of rigatoni carbonara).
Some rooftops feel like pre-apocalypse parties where everyone just learned how to drink. Others feel like upscale airport lounges where cocktails are priced like it’s the year 2036. Last Light falls somewhere in between - which is the best case scenario for a rooftop. It’s on top of Sister City (a hotel on the Lower East Side), and it’s a fun place to grab a drink with a couple of friends and enjoy a nice view, without having to shout over a song featuring Ed Sheeran and Gucci Mane.
Some things just taste better when eaten outside, like ice cream and corn on the cob. Barbecue is another good example of this, and the best new place to eat smoked meat outdoors is Mothership Meat Company in Astoria. It’s from the same people behind Jon Brown Smokehouse, and after you order at a counter inside, you can take all your food to the big back patio. The brisket is solid, but our favorite things here are the ribs and sausage, both of which pair well with alcohol. Stop by with a group on a weekend afternoon, maybe bring a board game or a deck of cards, and hang out for an hour or two.
There’s only one place we know of where you can eat a lobster meatball on a stick, drink an affordable glass of wine, then play the French version of bocce known as pétanque, and it’s Maison Yaki. This is the latest spot from the people behind Olmsted, and the menu is a mashup of French and Japanese food. There are a lot of little skewers of things like pork belly, duck a l’orange, and ribeye, and there are also some small plates like tempura frog legs and cauliflower okonomiyaki. And pretty much everything is worth ordering. But portions are pretty small, so we recommend using this place for mainly drinks and snack. A very good snack that precedes a round of pétanque.
Above all else, Bar Pisellino is an excellent business decision. This Italian bar and cafe is from the team behind Via Carota - and it’s located directly across the street on 7th Avenue. So now, when you’re quoted a two-hour wait at Via Carota, you can walk 20 steps and be in the immediate vicinity of a negroni and some arancini to tide you over. Except, of course, if you have to wait for a table at Bar Pisellino - which is something you should expect at peak times (its full hours are 7am to midnight). But if you’re a fan of Via Carota’s piece-of-Italy-in-the-West-Village experience, you’ll want to check this place out too. It’s like that, but with the addition of sidewalk seating, and a tiny interior that looks like the movie version of an Italian train station in 1942. The menu is short, and consists of snacks that are both very Italian and very small, so this is not a place for a full dinner - it’s a place to stop by during the day, or kick off your night.
If you want to drink a good cocktail on a front patio this summer while you silently judge pedestrians, go to Paper Daisy, a new cocktail bar on St. Marks. The inside is set up like a cafe, with a bar in one room and some seating in the back, but there’s also a curbside space where you can sit down for a drink with ingredients like rum, coconut water, and cold brew. There are also some solid small plates, like ricotta and chicken liver toast for when you need something that isn’t alcohol. So if you’re looking for a new go-to first date spot, Paper Daisy is perfect.
One of the best new restaurants in the city also has a backyard that’s better-furnished than your living room. It’s called Wayla, and it’s a Thai restaurant on the Lower East Side where you can eat some fried branzino, noodle-wrapped meatballs, and a bunch of other stuff that’ll make you want to build a small home inside this place. With its brick walls and dim lighting, the dining room is a perfectly pleasant place to eat this food, but if it’s even moderately nice outside, you should sit in the backyard. It’s full of potted plants, string lights, and expensive-looking furniture, and it feels like a photoshopped version of your daily existence.
A handful of restaurants from famous chefs are set to open on Pier 17 in the South Street Seaport, but the first big one is The Fulton, a new Jean Georges spot right on the water. While most of the dining area is indoors (sit upstairs if you want to look out at the Brooklyn Bridge), there’s also a pretty large outdoor section right on the water. The seafood-heavy menu has a bunch of crudos and tartares, raw bar items, grilled fish entrées, as well as a few options for those who prefer to eat things that don’t swim.